UK Travel Update: Start of COVID Lateral Flow Tests Instead of PCR
Travel testing rules will relax for returning holidaymakers who are fully vaccinated in what the UK government is describing as a “huge boost” for the travel industry.
From 4 AM Today, 24 October, fully vaccinated individuals arriving in England from a non-red list country can use a lateral flow test rather than the more expensive PCR version on or before day two.
Lateral flow tests for international travel must be purchased from a private provider as NHS Test and Trace lateral flow tests cannot be used for international travel.
Bookings for lateral flow tests opened on 22 October and can be purchased through the private providers listed on GOV.UK.
At present, there were 25 providers on the government website and prices ranged from £19 to £39.
How Lateral Flow Test Works
The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said passengers must send a photo of their test result to the private provider. Failure to do so could result in a fine of £1,000.
Travellers are able to book a test which they can take on their arrival into the UK at testing centres located in some airports.
Tests can be taken any time on or before the second day after your arrival. The Government recommends taking it “as soon as possible” after landing.
People who test positive will need to take a free NHS confirmatory PCR test and isolate.
Anyone travelling on to Ireland, Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales, the Channel Island or the Isle of Man in the 10 days after arrival in England, must follow the rules for testing and quarantine in those places.
Health and Social Care Secretary Sajid Javid said eligible travellers who’ve had the life-saving COVID-19 vaccine could benefit from a cheaper and quicker lateral flow test.
This is a huge boost to the travel industry and the public. Will make it easier and cheaper for people to book holidays and travel abroad. It is because of our incredible vaccine programme that this is possible.Health and Social Care Secretary Sajid Javid
UK Travel Rules
There are now just two lists, the red list and the “rest of world” list. Just seven countries remain on the red list, while rules for the rest of the world list depend on your vaccination status.
Only British citizens and those with residence rights in the UK can travel from red list countries. The seven countries are Colombia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Haiti, Panama, Peru and Venezuela.
Hotel quarantine will remain in place for all red list countries, regardless of vaccination status. This means anyone arriving in the UK from one of these countries will have to quarantine in a government-designated hotel for 10 days, at a cost of over £2,200 for a solo traveller.
The rules for the rest of the world are as follows.
If you are fully vaccinated:
- You no longer have to take a pre-departure test before travelling to the UK
- You do not have to self-isolate upon your return
- You must take a day two PCR test after arriving back in the UK (will be replaced by a lateral flow test from 24 October)
If you are not fully vaccinated:
- You must still take a pre-departure test (PCR or lateral flow) within three days before travelling to the UK
- You must self-isolate for 10 days upon your arrival
- You must take a day two and day eight PCR test
- You may take an additional day five PCR test and be released from isolation early if you test negative
Find out if your vaccine is accepted in the UK in our blog post: Your Choice of COVID-19 Vaccine Will Determine Where You Can Travel.
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